Vancouver Coastal Health warns of rising COVID-19 cases in Whistler, B.C.

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Vancouver Coastal Health is urging residents and visitors in Whistler, B.C., to do what they can to prevent community transmission of COVID-19 amid a rise in cases.

The health authority says in a news release that 288 infections have been recorded in the resort community between Jan. 1 and 26.

The majority of those cases were people in their 20s and 30s who live, work and socialized together, it says. No infections have yet resulted in hospitalization or death.

British Columbia reported 546 new cases of COVID-19 across the province and a dozen new deaths on Thursday.

New figures from the Health Ministry bring the total confirmed cases in B.C. to 66,265 and the death toll to 1,184.

There are 4,455 people with active infections, 291 of whom are hospitalized, including 75 in intensive care.

To date, 127,255 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, 4,185 of which are second doses.

The latest spike of cases in Whistler is similar to a surge in the community in November that health officials say was resolved in early December.

Over the past week, Vancouver Coastal Health has issued six public exposure notifications for restaurants and bars in the community.

The authority says public health guidance for residents and visitors includes avoiding all non-essential travel and it urges people to visit their local mountain for winter activities.

Its statement says British Columbian residents should stay within their household bubbles and avoid social gatherings, practise physical distancing and wear a mask, if possible.

"Stay home if you have any symptoms and get tested if your symptoms are consistent with COVID-19," it says.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix asked residents not to travel for holidays for the Family Day and Lunar New Year holidays next month.

Over the past year, many of the occasions where people would typically gather with friends and extended family have had to be put on hold or re-imagined in a safe way, and these holidays aren't different, they said in a joint statement.

"Any travel beyond your local community, unless it is absolutely essential for work or medical care, is strongly discouraged right now," Dix and Henry say.

"This is necessary because we know that COVID-19 can travel with us, and we can just as easily bring it back on our return. If it is a day trip or a weekend getaway, the risk is the same."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 28, 2021.

Amy Smart, The Canadian Press